Thing 17: Exploring images online

Social media and digital tools are great for both finding and sharing images online. Online photo sharing sites have numerous advantages over keeping photos on your hard drive (although they are not without disadvantages and shouldn’t be considered foolproof storage). They make it easy to share pictures and give you additional features for organization such as tags and search. This has benefits for both the photo owner and those of us who want to view or use images. Access controls let you control who can see or download which photos, and licence controls let the owner feel more secure about sharing images while users can feel comfortable downloading them.

One of the biggest photo sharing websites is Flickr, and that’s where we’ll focus our attention today. Flickr was started in 2004; it was later purchased by Yahoo!. Flickr states that it wants to:

‘get photos and video into and out of the system in as many ways as we can: from the web, from mobile devices, from the users’ home computers and from whatever software they are using to manage their content. And we want to be able to push them out in as many ways as possible: on the Flickr website, in RSS feeds, by email, by posting to outside blogs or ways we haven’t thought of yet.’

To use upload photos on Flickr, you’ll need a Yahoo!, Facebook or Google account. If you don’t have any of the above and don’t want to set one up, you can still use Flickr as a fantastic image discovery tool.

  • Go to Flickr. Take the Flickr tour if you want to find out more about it. Use the search box or the explore option to find an image that you’d like to blog about. Experiment with different search terms, and see how they change what results you get.

  • Note the features of a Flickr image. On the right-hand side you’ll see the name of the photo and the username of the photo’s owner. Sometimes the owner will have added additional information such as date or type of camera/lens. If the photo is in any groups or sets, they’ll be displayed on the right side too. Below this, you’ll find the photo’s tags. Depending on the photo settings, these may have been added by the photo owner or by other Flickr. Finally, you’ll see information about usage and licensing as well as privacy settings. You can download or share the image via the tabs at the top left.
  • If you don’t want to create an account, spend some more time browsing images. Check out the Oxford Flickr Group, the Pitt Rivers Group (not officially run by the Museum, but the group works with museum staff), the Great War Archive Flickr Group and the Flickr Commons. Note the different purposes of these groups. The first is for enthusiasts; the second is centred on a particular institution and its work. The final group is a great example of using Flickr for crowdsourcing; the images have been contributed by people all over the UK as a part of the The Great War Archive. The Commons has a similar crowdsourcing purpose. If you don’t have or don’t want to create an account, skip on to ‘Exploring further’.
  • If you have or want to create a Flickr account, do so now. Take some photos to upload, or upload one or two you already have – perhaps something that illustrates the work or research you do.
  • Upload these into your Flickr account and tag at least one of the images with ‘23 Things for Research’ (read more about Flickr tagging). Please make sure that the images you upload are your own, or that you have received proper permission to share them.

Exploring further

  • Flickr isn’t the only image sharing or image search tool out there. If you want to look at some others, try:
  • If you’re on Flickr, you may want to consider joining a group. Try searching groups for keywords in your area of research, or your other interests.
  • Flickr makes their data available so that others can build online applications using its images. Take a look at some of the tools in Flickr’s App Garden. Some to try:
      • Show where you have been on your travels by adding your holiday snaps to a map with Mappr
      • Be creative and gather photos into a mosaic using Montager

Blog post
We’ll be giving you guidance on a blog post in the next thing (Creative Commons and copyright), so sit tight for now!